Life is a funny thing. Full of surprises. Like stumbling upon Wattie Buchan, the singer of one of the greatest Punk bands of all time – The Exploited, on the streets of Quebec. What you are about to read, didn’t materialize from a planned interview. There was no record executives seeking promotion of their artist here. Just dumb luck. Buchan had some time to kill, and agreed to chat with me about the last time his infamous band were due to play Montreal.
It’s been almost nine years since the now infamous riots in Montreal. Since the chaos and disorder that swept along rue St. Denis and into the heart of the city. Admittedly, it doesn’t take much at all for protests and riots to erupt here, anybody that has been watching Canadian news lately can relate to that. The provinces students are currently neck deep in protests and demonstrations, acts like smoke bombing the underground train lines and blocking bridges. Demolishing public and personal property, demonstrating by banging pots and pans on church yards and an attempt to interrupt the Canadian F1 Grand prix earlier this month and there’s no end in sight. They went as far as to antagonize police in full riot gear, by hanging donuts from sticks and waving them in the officer’s faces. There have been nude demonstrations that were not as good as they sound. Then, there’s the annual anti police brutality parades that end in rioting and arrests every year without fail. When hoodlums get shot for attacking police, expect more of the same crowd violence. Even when our sports teams win championships, the city gets thoroughly trashed in fits of joy. This truly is the land of uproar.
The 14th of October, 2003, is a night I shall never forget. I thought I was going out to see a concert by The Exploited. That never happened. All around me, shops were being vandalized. Windows smashed in and their contents looted. Vehicles were kicked and punched, rolled over and set ablaze. Bus and phone booths were torn from the ground and ripped to pieces. The city was engulfed in flames and smoke and looked like a war zone, and this was all before the riot squad showed up and things really kicked off. Bashing batons against shields, the boys in blue were using violence to battle violence in an attempt to quell an agitated and pissed off crowd. Projectiles bounced off of those shields and helmets. Some stood their ground and tried to fight and many were carted away to jail cells.
See also : Carlos Soria of The Nils
In hindsight, the whole ordeal could have been far better handled. Fearing the worst, the now defunct club’s owner, Paul Mattee, chose to call in police assistance before informing the crowd that the show would not go on. Thus, Mattee created a situation that the punks obviously didn’t appreciate, one that needed not happen. Just under a dozen cops showed up and were soon fearing the worst, calling in back-up almost immediately. Total Chaos, the opening band, were also denied entry on grounds that three of the members had minor criminal records dating back over a decade. Debates with Canadian customs have long plagued underground musicians, yet allow mainstream artists entry without fail. Which begs the question; how much did the leather, the spikes, the tattoos and the Mohawks have to do with the way the customs people treated the situation? Total Chaos were able to tour Canada finally, hitting Montreal in April of 2008, while the ban on The Exploited has also been lifted and the boys are back in La belle province for the second time in less than a year.
“What happened was, well, we all had visas for Canada, we bought work visas for Canada, and the tour bus we had, the driver was driving really slow to the gigs” explains Buchan, “A four hour drive would take him eight hours, right, then he would get lost because he was getting paid double the money if he drove so many hours and if he did so many miles he got double time. So after the first ten days of the tour, I complained to our agency that this guy is taking the piss! He’s taking too long to get to the gigs and so we got to Seattle to pick up our Canadian visas but the embassy was already shut. The last day of the tour was in Montreal so we decided to go over as tourists, but they already knew we were coming over so we got stuck there for over ten hours.
They go, well, why are you here? And I go we’re on a road trip, and he goes well, how do you all know each other then? Because we were a bunch of guys from Norway, Scotland and England, like, and we go we all meet up at gigs and so after a few hours, customs go “hey you, come here” and she had this picture from the first week of the tour in, I think, Toronto or something, and she goes “Ehm, is that you?” And I go “Ehm, oh that was a karaoke night! We got banned for two years for that” front man Buchan explains.
During the groups set at the D-Tox Rockfest in Montebello, Quebec, he made reference to 2003 with between song banter. “Anybody remember Montreal? This one’s called ‘Chaos Is My Life’”, a reference to a video clip that is readily available on Youtube. Hours prior, I mention that clip to Buchan, asking him if he’d seen it. “: Oh yeah!” he grins back at me, “ Some guy took all this raw footage of the riots and he put it to one of our songs, from the last album, and it’s fucking brilliant! It was a better video than what the record company had done, it’s totally fucking brilliant! I love it!”
On topic of the chaos that tore the city to shreds, “I can understand it. It’s like, all these people; I can totally understand why they rioted” sympathies Buchan. “It’s not every year that we get to come to Canada, like, it’s only now and then, and the time before that, he (pointing at my friend) he wasn’t even born yet. We only get to play here, like, every ten or fifteen years so when we got the chance to come over, everybody had waited so long, and they bought tickets and get told that the bands not there, so yeah, I can totally understand the riots.”